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In Memoriam: Valerie Morash, Ph.D. (1985–2017)

Date: 3/13/2017

Remembered by Amanda McKerracher and Yue-Ting Siu

Valerie Morash, Ph.D., was a beloved daughter, sister, and friend, as well as a research pioneer in the area of visual impairment. She died alongside her husband, Roger Morash, and their cats, Minsky and Malloc, on January 22, 2017.

Val and Roger were both highly accomplished in their respective fields, but perhaps their most valuable contributions were their warmth and generosity towards colleagues, friends, and family. They were always quick to host dinners, wine-and-cheese nights, and especially monthly game nights where friends of all walks were welcome. In their careers, they were most appreciated for their abilities to develop friendly collaborations across formerly separate fields. In particular, Val had made valuable connections between the fields of visual impairment and haptics perception in education, research, and rehabilitation.

In addition to Val's command in finding the best deals, credit cards, and travel destinations, she excelled in every aspect of her professional endeavors. Val earned two Bachelor of Science degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in electrical science and engineering and brain and cognitive sciences in 2007. She also earned a Master of Engineering in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT the following year. Upon graduation from MIT, Val and Roger married and moved to Berkeley, California, to pursue their careers. While Roger developed his own video company, Glug Glug, Val completed doctoral work at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley. She earned a Master of Arts degree in statistics in 2013 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in psychology one year later. As early as her undergraduate studies and throughout graduate studies, Val was awarded numerous scholarships, fellowships, and recognition for her work as a researcher. Val undertook many independent projects during her time at UC Berkeley, quickly accumulating an impressive list of collaborators and research partners.

With formidable expertise in building custom machines and extensive research experience in cognition and psychology, Val's integration of academic knowledge with pragmatic applications set her work apart. Combined with her ability to build the necessary tools to pursue these field-based research questions, Val consistently produced rigorous, evidence-based recommendations for practitioners. Some of her most valuable contributions to the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) community include analyses of the relationship between the proficiency in technology and engagement in communities of practice of teachers of students with visual impairments, the preliminary development of an IQ test and mathematics assessment for students who are blind, and application of haptics research to inform tactile graphics design and instruction.

Val's work in these areas was made possible through her commitment to integrate her own research and skills with those of practitioners. She was one of the few modern researchers who sought to bridge the gap between rigorous scientific work conducted in the fields of psychology and engineering with the practical problems faced by practitioners who educate and rehabilitate individuals with visual impairments. Val brought a scientific rigor to her work that led to publications in high-impact journals, bringing issues relevant to the field of vision impairment to the forefront of scientific inquiry.

In her short career, Val had already made more of an impact than some do in a lifetime. She will be forever honored through future accomplishments that stem from her work and with each research endeavor that affects practice. (Note: For more information on Dr. Morash, her work, and publications, visit the following website, Drs. Morash and McKerracher's latest contribution to JVIB, a Comment entitled, "Beware of Intelligence Results Based on Common Verbal Tests," can be read online as part of the March–April 2017 issue at

Amanda McKerracher, Ph.D., instructor, Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street, Nanaimo, BC, Canada V9R 5S5; and school psychologist, California School for the Blind, 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, CA 94536; e-mail: Yue-Ting Siu, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Special Education, Burk Hall, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132; e-mail:

Contact: (Contact information is provided in the news item.)

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